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Cheryl

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Where do you go, when the
unexpected happens?

When Cheryl Laskowski felt short-of-breath at Busch Gardens in 2018, she hoped it was something as simple as changing her medicine. She prayed it didn’t mean another open heart surgery.

She’d had two before. The retired Beacon Memorial Hospital nurse nearly died on the operating table during her first surgery in 2010. “I was this close to being airlifted to Indy,” she said. “They couldn’t get my heart to start beating again.”

“Back to Better than Normal”

Former Memorial nurse able to spend more time with family after TAVR procedure

As a result of those complications, Cheryl was in a coma for 28 days. She had a second open heart surgery just 10 days after the first.“My pastor was with my husband, and they started praying. They sent out messages to everyone in our church saying ‘Pray for Cheryl,” and my heart started beating again.”

When she awoke from the coma, she was confused, but she was determined to recover and rehabilitate. “I was determined to fight my way back,” she said.

I don’t know if I can go through that again,” she thought. “Am I going to survive this? –Cheryl*

An avid walker, Cheryl pushed through her rehabilitation and even hiked the Great Wall of China in the years following her surgeries. She assisted her family on her dairy farm. She returned to work at Beacon and even delivered two of her ten grandchildren in the hospital. “I didn’t let the grass grow under my feet,” she said.

Cheryl with family
What was once a multi-hour valve replacement using open heart surgery typically takes 90 minutes for TAVR-eligible patients like Cheryl. The physical scars from the procedure are also reduced.

Hope for another option

Eight years after her first two surgeries and her coma, she walked around Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, on inclines she said were “nothing much.” She started to lose stamina and felt like she couldn’t breathe. The daunting idea of another open heart surgery crossed her mind. “I don’t know if I can go through that again,” she thought. “Am I going to survive this?”

When she returned to Michiana, she met with Memorial doctors. Cheryl prefers to pray – not worry – and she prayed heavily that she wouldn’t need to undergo a third open heart surgery.

Every time a surgery is performed, scar tissue forms. A third open heart procedure – especially 8 years later – would require breaking through that scar tissue. Cheryl hoped and prayed for another option.

Answered prayers

Her prayers were answered in the form of TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement. During a TAVR procedure, the physician typically makes a small incision in the groin, places a catheter into the femoral artery and guides it through the heart to the aortic valve. The physician then inflates a balloon on the end of the catheter to stretch the valve open.

Next, the surgeon guides a new, self-expanding valve over the catheter to replace the old valve. Three calcified leaflets are pushed against the aortic wall and help cement and anchor the new valve in place.

What was once a multi-hour valve replacement using open heart surgery typically takes 90 minutes for TAVR-eligible patients like Cheryl. The physical scars from the procedure are also reduced.

I have so much to live for. And now I get to spend the rest of my life doing what I love most. –Cheryl*

Not all patients are able to receive a valve replacement through TAVR. Once the option was presented, Cheryl said she prayed that she would be an eligible participant. After multiple rounds of tests to ensure she’d be a good candidate for the program, she received the good news. Cheryl was eligible to participate.

In Cheryl’s case, she was able to leave the hospital three days after the procedure and was able to walk the night of the surgery. “The contrast between open heart and TAVR is immense,” Cheryl said.

Back Home

After her first valve replacements, Cheryl was out of work for 7 months. Now retired, Cheryl spends her time on her family’s farm with her children and grandchildren. She’s always on the go, she says. “I have so much to live for. And now I get to spend the rest of my life doing what I love most.”

“To have this level of world-class, highly skilled doctors and this technology so close to home right here in our community made all the difference,” Cheryl said. “I can’t say enough about the caregivers and the doctors and the the experts at beacon. They saved my life.”

“They got me back to better than normal.”

TAVR – Lifesaving Treatment for Severe Aortic Stenosis

If you have severe aortic stenosis and have been told you are not a candidate for open-heart surgery, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) could be an option for you. Our TAVR care team is trained and highly experienced in this potentially lifesaving procedure.

Learn More

About Beacon Heart and Vascular Care

Whether you live with an ongoing heart or blood vessel problem or have a life-changing emergency, your Beacon care team is here to help.

Beacon Health Foundation’s focus is a direct outgrowth of Beacon Health System’s deep commitment to enhancing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of the communities we serve. Our tax exempt identification number is 35-1536129.

*The quotations provided in this article are part of a testimonial from the family of Cheryl Laskowski; a patient at Beacon Memorial Hospital.